Spoke Trivia: Ironman Origins
“Ironman” Triahlon: The first Ironman triathlon (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run) was held on Oahu, Hawaii in 1978 to settle an argument between the Mid-Pacific Road Runners and the members of the Waikiki Swim Club about which athletes were fitter. The distances came about because the original event incorporated long-standing swimming, cycling and running races (the Waikiki Roughwater Swim, the Around-Oahu Bike Race (previously a 2-day event) and the Honolulu Marathon). The event was proposed by US Navy Commander John Collins, who was familiar with shorter triathlon events from his time in San Diego, CA. Fifteen men started the 1978 event and 12 finished. The wining time was 11:46:58.
The Ironman has been held every year since. In 1979 Lynn Lemaire became the first woman to participate and also the first woman to complete the event. It moved to the Big Island of Hawaii in 1981.
Today many thousands of athletes compete in Ironman distance events all around the world. The Men’s record for the Hawaii Ironman course is 8:04:08 set by Luc Van Lierde. The Women’s record, set by Chrissie Wellington, is 8:54:02. Most competitors are proud simply to finish and call themselves Ironmen.